Sounders deliver knockout blow

Evans, Johnson help Seattle oust Colorado for spot in Western Conference semifinals against Portland

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.comOctober 31, 2013 

The Seattle Sounders took a seven-game winless streak into a must-win game Wednesday night.

Knowing that if the streak didn’t stop, their season would, the Sounders got the result they needed: a 2-0 knockout-round victory over the Colorado Rapids before an announced crowd of 32,204 at CenturyLink Field.

Seattle took the lead in the 28th minute, on a two-touch shot from Brad Evans from just inside a top corner of the penalty area. Eddie Johnson added the insurance goal in stoppage time.

“It’s been a long time since we won a game,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “We get reminded of that all the time. So for us to win a game is just a good feeling. But it’s always been our belief that when we get our people on the field that we’re a team that can win games. … It’s not just a win; it’s the way we played as well. I thought we played well.”

The fourth-seeded Sounders will advance to the Western Conference semifinals against the top-seeded Portland Timbers. The two-game, aggregate-score series begins at 7 p.m. Saturday in Seattle. That series will resolve Nov. 7 in Portland.

“This is going to be fun,” Seattle midfielder/defender Marc Burch said. “Hopefully it’s what everybody wants. Portland thinks they kind of have the edge on us right now, and we’ll see what happens in a two-leg series.”

First the Sounders had to get past fifth-seeded Colorado, which routed them 5-1 earlier this month.

Seattle dominated the first half, starting with Adam Moffat putting a shot on goal in the third minute. Lamar Neagle, Johnson and Clint Dempsey all followed with good chances.

The Sounders finally capitalized in the 28th minute when a rebounded ball went to Evans, who whacked it past Colorado goalkeeper Clint Irwin.

“I was able to chest it down,” Evans said. “When I saw a little

bit of a gap, I was able to get good contact on the ball and find the back of the net.”

The Sounders knew they still had work to do.

Three times during their winless streak, they had scored first, only to allow a tying goal.

This time they were able to protect their lead, despite a couple of added challenges.

Starting right back DeAndre Yedlin did not return for the second half because of a sprained right ankle.

Then, in the 85th minute, Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning came out for a ball and handled it just outside the penalty box. He was given a red card, and the Sounders played through to the final whistle while a man down and with reserve Marcus Hahnemann rushed into the goal.

“Sometimes goalkeepers have to make decisions in split seconds,” Gspurning said. “… I just wanted to be ready if the ball is bouncing low. We talked about this at halftime, that they will chip the balls over the defense. I wanted to be ready and took a step forward, and it bounced a little higher than expected, and I thought, ‘OK, I’m not too far from the box, so I can make two steps back and should catch it.’ But I think I missed one step back.”

Seattle finally got breathing room in stoppage time, when Johnson took a pass from Dempsey, cut inside and beat Irwin.

“Our finishing left a little bit of something to be desired,” Schmid said. “The goal that Eddie finished was one of our more difficult chances. Overall, I thought we deserved to win the game. (Colorado) battled.”

The winner of the Seattle-Portland series advances to the Western Conference final against the winner of the Real Salt Lake-Los Angeles semifinal series.

Schmid said it is too early to know if Yedlin or forward Obafemi Martins (groin) will be available Saturday.

Hahnemann will start in goal while Gspurning serves his one-game red card suspension.

“Marcus is a quality goalkeeper,” Schmid said. “It’s not going to be an issue.”

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt

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